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Modern Nation-State Concept and Characteristics


The modern nation-state has the following four main characteristics: self-rule, organized form of government, has territory to rule and population to govern (Foresman, 2003). Self-rule is the characteristic that shows the sovereignty and independence of a nation-state in its self-goverthe ning ability and not a colony of any external power;. The second characteristic is the organized form of government for effective governance.

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The nation-state has three arms of government: executive, judicial, and legislative arms and levels of government at national, regional, and local levels. The United States government, for instance, has a juthe diciary, legislature, and executive as the three arms of government and governing levels at national, regional, local as federal, state, and county respectively. The third characteristic is that of a the territory to rule. The nation-state has a well-defined boundary of the land or water to the enforce her laws.

The rules and laws are only effective and applicable within the territory of a given nation-state. The fourth characteristic is that a nation-state must have a population of people to govern (Foresman, 2003). The population can comprise different ethnicities, but they belong to the same nationality, forming the basisthe of governance since democracy demands the gthe overnment made by the people, for the people, and of the people.


According to Lauletta (1996), the concepts nation-state, state, and nation depend on the political, economic, social, and cultural views of the international system. A nation is a population with socio-cultural entity in that they comprise population of people with the same culture, religion, language, and historical experiences but without any political entity, for example the Kurds in northern Iraq.

A State is a government with political entity having legal capacity for self-government, can join international unions with other States for example South Africa. Nation-state is a nation of people with political entity meaning that it is a combination of nation and state for example France is a state with cultural nation of French making the government.

United States

The United States fits the criteria of a state-state because it has four major characteristics of nation-state namely, has a territory comprising fifty states and is constitutionally recognized, has a well organized structure of government having three arms of government: judiciary, legislature and executive, and also three levels of government: federate, state, and local levels.

Another fitting characteristic to the United States is the sovereignty: ability to rule and control the territory independently and the last characteristics the population having common American culture and language.

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The United States is government that portrays the characteristics of modern nation-state and one such characteristic is having fixed territory.

The United States is made of fifty states under her definite territory with marked boundaries of The territory is important because it shows the geographical extent to which laws of the nation-state state can be applied and helps in avoiding unnecessary boundary conflicts that normally arises when one nation encroaches into the territory of another. Hence, the territory of the United States in constitutionally recognized and protected legally by the military forces against any external aggression.

The United States is a sovereign government with supreme constitutional powers to rule and control her territory. In the eighteenth century, the Americans were under colonial rule of British and they did not have sovereignty because they were under the constitution of the colonials but when they got independence, they gained their sovereignty. The United States is fostering it sovereignty by upholding their constitution and protecting her borders against any invasion by the enemies.

The United States as a nation have a common American culture. The American culture is a very complex culture since different people from different parts of the world has contributed. The foreigners have significantly influenced the Native American culture hence the current culture is the common culture of Americans.

Jay (2002) found out that America culture consists of several aspects such as Individualism, Capitalism, Modernism, Religiosity, Secularism, Consumerism, and language. The most dominant aspects of the American culture is the use of American English as the language, culture of capitalism where one can accumulate as much wealth as possible, religious culture of believing in the existence of Supreme God, the creator whom they trust.

The American foreign policies is “to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community” (Smith, 1995). This policy helps in the political promotion of democracy and resolution of disputes worldwide. Another policy is the anti-terrorism crusade that is aimed at making the world a safe place, free of dangerous weapons of mass destruction and terror gangs for the safety of Americans and the international community.

European Union

The serious effects of the First World War such as the loss of life and economic cost led to the idea of the formation of European Union. The Second World War made the idea of creation of European Union to hatch because there were great losses of life and shattered economies. The European countries then realized the importance of peace and in order to achieve a stable peace forever, they resolved to form European Union.

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In 1946, Winston Churchill proposed for the formation of a union and in 1949, Council of Europe was formed (Hoskyns, 2000). Two communities, the European Economic Community, and European Atomic energy Community were created in 1957 by the signing of two treaties in Rome and the three powerful countries, Ireland, United Kingdom, and Denmark become members of European Union in 1973.

Eventually in 1992, Maastricht Treaty was signed leading to the establishment of European Union in1993 (Hoskyns, 2000). The major reasons for the formation of European Union are to end war and build strong military union to combat possible war threats and to grow the economy that was ruined by the war.

European Union is composed of independent sovereign nations who came together for a common purpose of achieving strength and influence the world. The European Union coordinates its function using the four main institutions “the Parliament made of elected representatives, the Court of Justice, the Council with a member from each state and the Commission to chair the Union” (European Union, 2010).

The European Union is composed of 27 countries and some of significant countries are Germany, Denmark, Poland, Netherlands, United Kingdom, France, Hungary, and Finland.

The functions of the Europe Union are, to coordinate the economic development of the member countries, to expand political territory to become a strong influential power, to foster peace among member nations and worldwide. Other functions include acting as corporate body for international relationships and negotiation, to help in settling disputes between nations, creation of central European bank and eventual adoption of Euro, as common currency in the Union

The European Union foreign policy is to enhance trade development by pushing for trade liberalization international for the benefit of the trading countries and establishment of bilateral agreements that will remove international barriers of trade.

Another foreign policy is to defend its interests in terms of having strong security in case of terrorist attacks since these countries had experienced great economic and human loss during the first and the Second World War. The European Union has resolved to involve diplomatic and political approaches in conflict resolution (European Union, 2010).

Foreign policies

Nation-states and transnational entities achieve their interests by development bilateral relationships that enable them have mutual benefits. For example the bilateral agreement for free trade that will reduce barriers to effecting and lucrative business between the two government. This relationship is of mutual benefit giving the other an opportunity to market the merchandise.

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In terms of security, foreign policy is very essential since war on terrorism requires collective responsibility otherwise war on terrorism will not succeed. Foreign policies enable countries to share security intelligence, forces, and arsenal necessary to combat enemies. For instance, the United States collaborated with the European Union during the war on terrorism after September 11, 2001 attacks on World Trade Center.

Foreign policies have powerful political impacts since the policies themselves are external pressure to other nations to fulfill the demands of a powerful government. For example, the imposition of trade restrictions to an inferior or an enemy nation is a tactic to limit the sovereignty of a nation.

Hence, foreign policies will form part of neo-colonialism onto developing nations even though it seems of benefit, but the greatest benefit goes to the developed nations that are drafting the policies and implementing them to suit their selfish interests. The overall effects of interaction between United States and European will lead to formation of a powerful empire that will control the world.


The modern nation-state is an evolved form of government with well-defined and organized governing structures to reduce the bureaucracy associated with the past forms of government. These structures are fixed with various institutions to provide efficiency in the enforcement and implementation of both the national and foreign policies. The international policies have enabled countries like the United States to gain power and become the super power country.


European Union. (2010). Institutions of the European Union. EROPA. Web.

Foresman, S. (2003). Characteristics of a Nation-State. Pearson Education. Web.

Hoskyns, C. (2000). Democratizing the European Union. Manchester University Press.

Jay, G. (2002) Do Americans Share a Common Culture? University of Wisconsin. Web.

Lauletta, M. (1996). What is a Nation-State? Social Science Research Council. Web.

Smith, T. (1995). America’s Mission: The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy in the Twentieth Century. Princeton University Press. Web.

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